Reza Aslan: Bill Maher ‘Comes From A Place Of Complete Amateurness’ On Religion, But He’s Not A ‘Bigot’

October 15, 2014 by  
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Despite Bill Maher’s recent diatribe against Islam, during which he sparred with Ben Affleck about the basic tenets of the religion, author Reza Aslan doesn’t consider Maher a “bigot.”

Aslan, who has been fiercely critical of Maher’s stance on Islam, defended the comedian in a HuffPost Live interview on Wednesday.

“I’ve said repeatedly that Bill Maher is not a bigot. I know him. We are friends. We hang out with each other backstage,” he told host Marc Lamont Hill. “He loves having me on the show despite the fact that we disagree on a lot of things.”

But Aslan counterbalanced his defense of the HBO host by adding that Maher lacks the expertise on religion to effectively weigh in.

“He’s not a mean-spirited person. He’s a comedian, he’s very funny. He’s smart,” he said. “He’s got a very perceptive outlook on a lot of topics but when it comes to religion he, like so many critics of religion — especially Sam Harris, just comes from a place of complete amateurness.”

Before entering such a complex debate, Aslan recommended that people like Maher do some serious scholarly research on the subject.

“Criticizing religion is a perfectly good thing to do as long as you are familiar with religion,” he said. “But if your research is Fox News, if your research is what you happen to see on TV, that’s not really coming at this problem from a place of expertise.”

Watch the full HuffPost Live Conversation with Reza Aslan here.

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Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Newspaper Under Siege

October 14, 2014 by  
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HONG KONG — As the vehicle came into view from around the corner, a group of young men wearing surgical masks sprang into action, taking up positions in the center of the road. The vehicle inched forward expectantly, but finally ground to a halt with its front bumper just meters away from demonstrators sitting cross-legged on the cool concrete.

It’s a well-choreographed routine in Hong Kong these days, but this time the roles and the rhetoric were reversed: The delivery truck was laden with Wednesday’s edition of the Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s tabloid-style and passionately pro-democracy newspaper, and the demonstrators were here to block its delivery to newsstands around the city.

bus blockage

Dozens of demonstrators blocked delivery routes for the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper. Matt Sheehan/Huffington Post

Three weeks into a civil disobedience campaign known as the “Umbrella Movement,” some opponents of the pro-democracy occupation are trying to turn the tables on the movement’s most vocal media backer. For four consecutive nights, anti-occupy forces have gathered outside the Apple Daily’s headquarters to obstruct newspaper deliveries.

Rival papers sympathetic to the mainland have rejoiced in Apple Daily “reaping what it sows” in advocating civil disobedience, but the paper’s reporters saw none of the karmic resonance.

“The logic is different,” said Joel Ko, a news editor who has worked for Apple Daily for more than a decade. “The students are fighting for the public, but these people are blocking a private company which has the right to make deliveries.”

On Tuesday, more than 100 of the newspapers’ employees came out to face down the demonstrators, with both sides hurling insults across police cordons. Journalists kept their cameras clicking and yelled that the protesters should “go back to mainland China,” while the demonstrators denounced the paper’s employees as traitors.

“They are the human scum of the Chinese nation,” screamed Dai Sunliang, pointing an accusing finger at the assembled Apple Daily journalists. A 35-year Hong Kong resident originally from the mainland, Dai carried a sign denouncing Apple Daily. “They’re put up to it by by external forces who are against China and attempting to destroy Hong Kong.”

But Apple Daily and its supporters claim it’s the blockading demonstrators who represent outside forces. In interviews and on the paper’s pages, Apple Daily representatives claimed the blockages are carried out by pay-to-play “protesters” hired for a night of civil disobedience.

Interviews with some of the demonstrators appeared to support that theory. Several pleaded ignorance as to why they were there. Some elderly participants who claimed to have come out just to watch, soon took seats in the street when ordered to do so by a young man with a walkie-talkie. Other protesters reacted angrily to interview requests.

“The mess in Hong Kong right now was created by you Americans!” barked one older protester who refused to give his name. “Hong Kong people need a booming economy, not freedom and democracy. They’re fake! You Americans beat black people to death, and American cops are way more violent than those in Hong Kong.”

camera showdown

One demonstrator responded in kind when a journalist tried to take pictures of his face. Matt Sheehan/Huffington Post

If any mystery remains over the authenticity of the demonstrations, there is little doubt as to why they targeted Apple Daily. With one of the largest readerships in Hong Kong, Apple Daily is known for its defiant pro-democracy positions, shrill and sensational reporting style, and occasionally lax standards for fact-checking.

The paper is run by brash media mogul Jimmy Lai, a man who makes no secret of his deep loathing for the Chinese government. As a 12-year-old, Lai smuggled himself out of famine-stricken China in 1960 and into Hong Kong. There, he went on to build a clothing and media empire that he now deploys in a running grudge match with Beijing. His paper subsidizes pro-democracy advertisements and has in the past printed two-page spreads that can serve as anti-government banners at protests.

While some local journalists cringe at what they see as the paper’s affinity for gossip and sex scandals, they say it remains one of the few bulwarks against a creeping pro-Beijing influence in Hong Kong media.

“We treat [Apple Daily] as a very precious organization because they have their own stance without being cracked down on by Beijing,” said Lui Ping Kuen, a professor of journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University who occasionally freelances for Apple Daily and other local papers. “Bosses of other big media businesses aren’t just doing media … and sometimes they sacrifice the independent operation of their media companies if Beijing gives them more benefits in other sectors.”

front line apple daily

Police were forced to intervene and diffuse tensions between Apple Daily employees and anti-occupy demonstrators. Matt Sheehan/Huffington Post

Freedom of operation and distribution is what the protesters targeted on Tuesday, with anti-occupy crowds either sitting in front of delivery trucks or holding aloft banners. The young men and elderly attendees blockading the delivery truck generally sat with heads bowed, while a crowd of young Apple Daily employees taunted them and pushed flashing cameras in their faces.

face masks

Young men in baseball caps and surgical masks blocked passage of Apple Daily delivery trucks. Matt Sheehan/Huffington Post

In recent days, the paper has used cranes to airlift newspapers over the blockades and onto delivery trucks. Though many papers still didn’t hit newsstands until after 9 a.m., Apple Daily has dedicated its cover to the paper’s victory over the demonstrators, all while publishing headshots of suspected paid instigators.

But not all in attendance fit the hired hand description. Hong Kong native Chan Lap Kuen organizes with a local anti-occupy group and he debated the journalists who shot questions at him. Asked whether he’d received money to attend the protest, Chan said “no” and pointed out that the questioner, in fact, was paid to be there.

“How can the occupiers say that they are for democracy when the way they pursue it is totally the opposite?” Chan asked. “How is it that the students are supposed to represent the people of Hong Kong? They’re not elected by us.”

Chan, 42, runs a recycling business on the northern outskirts of Hong Kong. He said his friends’ fruit selling business has been hurt by the demonstrations and he remains uninspired by student calls for democracy.

chan surrounded

Chan Lap Kuen defended his anti-occupy positions in questioning by a crowd of journalists. Matt Sheehan/Huffington Post

“I don’t care about not having democracy,” said Chan. “While some countries do well with democracy, others have collapsed because of it. Just look at the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and now Thailand.”

While the blockade at the Apple Daily headquarters managed to hold up some delivery trucks, batches of the newspaper were showing up on newsstands by 6 a.m. Wednesday. Speaking Tuesday night, Apple Daily’s assignment editor Norman Choi expressed optimism that the protests would be too costly for their alleged financial backers to maintain much longer. But he also said legitimate political debate would be welcome.

“If the protesters don’t receive money to come, if it’s just for their political ideals, I can respect that,” Choi said.

Wayne Chang contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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Ferguson Protesters Hang Banner At Rams-49ers Monday Night Football Game In St. Louis

October 14, 2014 by  
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The ongoing protests over the death of Michael Brown made a quick appearance at the Edward Jones Dome during the second half of the St. Louis Rams’ game Monday night.

Protesters briefly hung a banner reading, “Rams fans know on and off the field black lives matter,” over of the top of a jumbo video board in the north end zone during the 49ers’ go-ahead drive in the third quarter. A few minutes later, about three-dozen protesters marched with their hands raised in an aisle just below the upper deck in the south end zone. Five police officers followed them.

The protests stem from the August shooting death of Brown, who was black and unarmed, by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
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Penelope Cruz Named ‘Sexiest Woman Alive’ By Esquire Magazine

October 13, 2014 by  
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Esquire has named actress and model Penelope Cruz as its “Sexiest Woman Alive” for 2014.

Cruz, 40, spoke to the magazine but said little about her personal life with actor husband Javier Bardem and their two children.

That is for us,” she was quoted as saying.

Cruz did, however, offer a little insight into her career and how her artistic interests have changed over the years.

“I’ve made it hard for me sometimes, especially in my teens and twenties,” Cruz told Esquire. “I had an attraction to drama. Most of us have that, especially if you are an artist — you feel like you are tempted to explore the darkness. I could not be less interested now. For me, the most attractive, charming, cool, fun, interesting thing — how could I call it? A plan.”

Esquire US names Penelope Cruz as the sexiest women alive. @Esquiremag pic.twitter.com/MbZB7Gc3Xg

— Nikki Wicks (@nikkiwicks) October 13, 2014

In 2009, Cruz became the first Spanish actress to win an Academy Award, taking home the Oscar for her supporting role in “Vicky Christina Barcelona.”

Cruz was also nominated two other times.

Previous “Sexiest Woman Alive” honorees include Scarlett Johansson (who won twice, including last year), Mila Kunis in 2012 and Rihanna in 2011.

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So Just How Bad Is It To Eat In Your Bed?

October 12, 2014 by  
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Even if you don’t have a TV in your bedroom, chances are you have Netflix on your laptop. And now that the weather’s getting colder, there’s probably a good chance that you might curl up under the covers with a flick and a snack of some sort.

But just how unsanitary is eating in your bed? We wanted to know, and we wanted you to know, too. Kadi Dulude, the owner of top New York City cleaning service Wizard Of Homes, told HuffPost Home that “at least half” of the places she cleans show signs of people eating in their beds.

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“Most people know to take their dishes to the sink, but in the extreme cases, it’s like their bed is their dining room and if they don’t clean up, there are a lot of bugs,” says Dulude.

So what will happen when you leave traces of snacking between the sheets? Paul Bello, exterminator and owner of PJB Pest Management Consulting, told HuffPost Home that bugs will appear when there are crumbs left around. The most common creepy crawlers to show up? Ants and cockroaches.

“The people who are sloppy and don’t clean up after themselves are the ones who run the risk,” says Bello. “Cockroaches need only a little bit of food to survive.”

As you might expect, certain foods attract different types of bugs. According to Lou Sorkin, a forensic entomologist (a person who studies insects) and a senior scientific assistant at the American Museum of Natural History, sweet foods such as soda, fruit juices, cupcakes and cookies with icing could attract ants and certain flies, including house flies, blue bottle flies and green bottle flies. Leftover foods, such as milk from a bowl of cereal, pizza sitting in the box or hamburgers and chicken left out in the takeout container, can attract ants, flies and even cockroaches.

Normally, Dulude advises that people wash their sheets every week, but for those who constantly eat in bed, she says every three days would be ideal. When it’s all said and done, we suggest heeding Dulude’s sage advice when it comes to bedroom practices.

“I would suggest not eating in bed at all,” she said. “Just don’t put the TV in the bedroom. Keep the bedroom as a sacred place where you go to rest.”

All images courtesy of Getty
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Gardner Hates Journalism, Unless He Benefits From It

October 11, 2014 by  
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Colorado senatorial candidate Cory Gardner, like much of the political right, sees himself has a victim of liberal media bias. On a day when he was endorsed by The Denver Post, and Gardner was tweeting about how “honored and humbled” he was, I thought I’d point back to a few of the many times he’s trashed the news media with sweeping, unsupported accusations of bias that serve only to accelerate the decline of professional journalism.

In 2011, Gardner told Grassroots Radio Colorado:

Gardner: ”The press likes to blame the Tea Party for a lot of things, because there’s a bias in the media against people who believe in smaller government.”

Worley: “You mean people like us.”

Gardner: ”People like us.”

In January of last year, Gardner said:
Gardner:”Look, the media is going to criticize the Republicans every time we turn around, because we are not in lock-step with the President.”

After Romney’s self-inflicted election loss in 2012, Gardner blamed the media:

Gardner:

When the American people were watching the news with their family at the dinner table, they saw a media that is gung-ho for the President. So not only were we running an election against the President of the United States, we were running an election against TV stations around the country and inside people’s living rooms.

I looked for examples of Gardner’s opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, trashing journalism in the same baseless fashion, and found none.

Some progressives are so angry at The Post for its Gardner endorsement that they’re threatening to cancel their subscriptions.

By doing this, and forsaking the last gasps of Denver’s by-far best news source to survive, we’d reduce ourselves to Gardner’s own level of extremism that, for some reason, The Denver Post failed to see in Gardner across the spectrum of issues from global warming and immigration to abortion and journalism itself — and beyond.
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Republican Cory Gardner Gets Major Newspaper Endorsement In Tossup Senate Race

October 10, 2014 by  
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In what could be a big boost to his Senate bid, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) received the Denver Post editorial board’s endorsement Friday in a race that could decide which party controls Congress’ upper chamber.

The paper wrote that Gardner, who is challenging first-term Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would provide “fresh leadership, energy and ideas” in Congress and be a more proactive voice for the state. The editorial argues that Udall “is not perceived as a leader in Washington and, with rare exceptions such as wind energy and intelligence gathering, he is not at the center of the issues that count — as his Democratic colleague, Sen. Michael Bennet, always seems to be.”

About half of the ads criticizing Gardner have focused on his past support for state-based personhood initiatives granting legal rights to fetuses, which medical organizations say could outlaw abortion and ban most common forms of birth control. Television spots have also hit Gardner for cosponsoring a federal personhood bill that contains similar language to the state initiatives. In response to those attacks, Gardner has touted his new support for making birth control available over-the-counter.

The editorial board criticized Udall for the Democratic strategy of highlighting Gardner’s record on reproductive health issues, saying that it represents an “obnoxious one-issue campaign” that “is an insult to those he seeks to convince.” It argues that Gardner is no “culture warrior,” saying that he would “pose no threat to abortion rights.”

The endorsement is notable given that the paper recommended Udall over former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colo.) in 2008. Other papers in the state have split their endorsements this year. While The Durango Herald endorsed Udall, the Colorado Springs-Gazette picked Gardner.

HuffPost Pollster, which tracks and combines all publicly available polling, has Gardner leading Udall by just one percentage point with just 24 days until Nov. 4.
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Double-Amputee Veteran Makes History On The Cover Of Men’s Health Magazine

October 9, 2014 by  
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Retired Army Sgt. Noah Galloway, a double-amputee, shares his story of overcoming physical and emotional challenges in the November issue of Men’s Health.

He recounted details of the explosion that changed his life. In December 2005, Galloway was serving his second tour in Iraq when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. He lost his left forearm and left leg below the knee in the blast, Men’s Health reported. He also battled depression for years after the incident.

I’d sit at home and drink and smoke and sleep. That’s all I did,” Galloway told the magazine.

mens health

Five years after the incident, the retired sergeant decided it was time to make a change and picked up a rigorous fitness routine to get himself into shape. His mission to get fit has been a successful one, and the 33-year-old was chosen as the “Ultimate Men’s Health Guy,” featured on the November issue of Men’s Health — making him the first reader to grace the cover of the publication.

The father of three was chosen out of 13,000 entries, according to Today.com. Galloway told AL.com that he was on his way to New York as a finalist to find out if he’d been chosen as the cover star when he unexpectedly got the news a little early.

“I got a voicemail from a friend who saw the cover at a Kentucky truck stop and congratulated me,” Galloway told the site. “Then the text messages started coming in. I was stunned.”

While the veteran says he’s surprised by the results, the achievement is well-deserved. In 2010, he began competing in various races and marathons, Today.com reported. Galloway used fitness to combat his depression, and trained using his own workout methods to better suit his amputations.

I looked back, and my depression terrified me. I never wanted to experience that again. That’s why I got into races,” he told Men’s Health. “What kept me moving was never going back to where I came from. I wanted people to see more than my injury.”

Galloway’s new outlook is what he aims to share with others. He currently runs the No Excuses Charitable Fund, a fund with the mission of promoting healthy lifestyles in his home state of Alabama.

I believe in being better, not bitter,” he wrote on his site.

The November issue of Men’s Health magazine featuring Noah Galloway is currently on newsstands.

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American ISIS Hostage’s Mother Asks To Speak With Militant Leader

October 8, 2014 by  
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The mother of an American aid worker held hostage and threatened with beheading by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has posted a message on Twitter asking to speak with the leader of the militant group holding her son.

A Letter from Abdul-Rahman Kassig’s Mother to IS Caliph Al Baghdadi pic.twitter.com/QUXTXluVnY

— Paula Kassig (@PaulaKassig) October 8, 2014

On a recently-created Twitter account, Paula Kassig wrote to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, “I am trying to get in touch with the Islamic State about my son’s fate,” and asked, “How can we reach you?”

New York Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, who claims to be in touch with an intermediary family to the Kassig’s, confirmed the authenticity of the account and the statement.

Kassig was taken captive by ISIS on Oct. 1, 2013 in Syria while providing aid for refugees from the country’s civil war. The 26-year-old from Indiana was a former Army Ranger, deployed briefly to Iraq in 2007. Kassig changed his name from Peter while held by ISIS.

Also on Wednesday, the Kassig family released a video pleading with ISIS for their son’s release in Arabic. They had earlier released a video in English.

In a video released on Friday showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning, Kassig was shown next to a masked militant who threatened to kill him. ISIS has used such tactics to threaten those opposing its aims to establish a caliphate. The Islamic militant group has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, murdering combating forces and civilians.

In addition to Henning, ISIS has beheaded three other Westerners: two journalists and a British aid worker.
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Stephen Collins, ’7th Heaven’ Star, Still Alive After False Shooting Report On Twitter

October 7, 2014 by  
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Police responded to reports of a gunshot at the Los Angeles home of actor Stephen Collins on Tuesday night, but say reports the “7th Heaven” star had shot himself are untrue.

Collins had been in the news all day after he was reportedly heard on a recording obtained by TMZ confessing to child molestation and exposing himself.

He was then fired from his role on the film “Ted 2,” and resigned from the National Board of the Screen Actors Guild. In addition, the New York Police Department said it was investigating a complaint filed in 2012 over allegations of lewd conduct on an underage girl in 1972.

On Tuesday night, someone reported a gunshot at Collins’ home in the Tarzana neighborhood. The Los Angeles Police Department told Buzzfeed that officers responded, but didn’t find anything.

LAPD officer tells me there was no shooting tonight at Stephen Collins home. He is “alive and well” and not even at that location

— Jon Passantino (@passantino) October 8, 2014

However, reports spread on social media that Collins had shot himself after former “Baywatch” actress Donna D’Errico, who lives in the same neighborhood, tweeted: “That guy from 7th Heaven lives right around the corner from me & just shot himself a few minutes ago…”

She later deleted the tweet, but it had already been retweeted numerous times — and, in a number of cases, the information was repeated without attribution.

D’Errico later deleted the tweet and apologized for spreading false rumors:

I just tweeted out what I was being told by my neighbor who were on scene. I apologize for tweeting what I’d heard before confirming it.

— Donna D’Errico (@DonnaDErrico) October 8, 2014

Her mea culpa led to the following responses from the LAPD’s social media coordinator:

@DonnaDErrico @LAcrimes That why I dont tweet anything that my neighbor tells me

— Officer Lee (@LAPDLee) October 8, 2014

The amount of false information that was being tweeted regarding the Tarzana incident is mind blowing. Lets check facts next time, people.

— Officer Lee (@LAPDLee) October 8, 2014

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